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App Piracy and Why Apple Needs to Help

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on November 5th, 2009

Ryan posted earlier last week about Apple’s growing pains. Yes, Apple has approved over 100,000 apps, and we're long since past the 2 billion download milestone, which is great. But alongside the explosive growth in the App Store has come explosive growth in another, not entirely unexpected direction: piracy.

I’m not going to pretend that piracy is a new or even an unusual phenomenon. Grabbing the latest album or movie off of the internet takes about as much effort as wiggling your pinky finger. But App Store piracy is a bit unique. First of all, we're hearing a lot more indie developers speaking out about it. And secondly, those developers are extremely restricted in what preventative measures they can take, thanks in no small part to Apple.

The real power is in the numbers. Recently, Fishlabs reported that they experienced first-day piracy rates of 95% for Rally Master Pro. This is far from unusual; Smells Like Donkey claimed to experience rates as high as 90% in the week following the release of their newest game, Tap Fu, and ngmoco regularly experiences first-week rates of 50-90%. These rates decrease over time as pirates lose interests and more legitimate customers download the game, but indie developers are hit the hardest, with many enduring lasting piracy rates around 50%. Worst of all, hotly anticipated apps are cracked not within hours, but within moments of their release.

Needless to say, many are frustrated. Smells Like Donkey wrote that they felt "totally screwed over" after seeing just how rampant piracy was. And who can blame them? There aren't many viable ways to protect applications.

Developers can attempt to check for pirated apps, but they often feel compelled to tread lightly. There's nothing worse for PR than blocking a legitimate customer after a piracy check generates a "false positive." (I.e., a genuine buyer gets mistaken for a pirate.) In the App Store, word of mouth is often what makes or breaks a game. Some insert pop-up notifications when a pirated app is detected, asking the user to buy a legal copy of the application, while others revert their games to a "lite" mode; most are loathe to permanently disable the apps.

100,000 apps and growing pains.

Posted by Ryan Filsinger on October 30th, 2009

On November 28th 2008 Apple hit a landmark for their iPhone App Store. They reached 10,000 approved applications for their device. Less then a year later, Apple has hit another landmark in approving their 100,000th app. This number is mind boggling when you think about the amount of development man hours that have gone into it.

Recently I've read some other saddening numbers in that some developers are seeing piracy rates of upwards of 90% on their applications. I firmly believe that Apple's recent move to allow developers to sell in game purchases in their free apps is a direct response to the massive pirating we see going on. If developers, publishers, startups and the like are going to make money consistently on the device in a complete sea of pirates and the race to $0.99 they are going to do start thinking and doing things completely differently. A lot of people are starting to expect a lot of game for almost no money. The problem is very few companies can exist by merely selling their app for such a low price, but then you'll almost never get noticed if you price yourself higher. It is definitely a catch 22 for many devs. What I see happening in this space is that the devs who take the model of giving their game away for free and then convincing me to go farther by spending $0.99 or $1.99 will more likely succeed. The other approach is to lock people out of the game based on a timed events similar to how iMob does it. There may even be a 3rd or 4th solution to this problem that has yet to emerge.

This flood of apps will not stop, and some analysts are saying that we'll see 250,000 applications by this time next year and that number may even be low if we look at the growth pattern over the last year and half. Crazy as it sounds, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg that will be the app store. Everyone will be developing stuff for the iPhone. At some point, Apple will be changing it's slogan to "There are 100 apps for that" as extreme over saturation hits in all areas. Even Adobe is releasing a Flash game converter that allows you to make your Flash game into an app and with that every Flash game will get converted in no time.

Thoughts on In-App-Purchasing For Free Apps

Posted by Jeff Scott on October 20th, 2009

With the announcement last week that Apple would allow In-App Purchasing (IAP) for free apps, we wondered what will really change in the App Store. Obviously right now this is a theoretical exercise as, so far, very little has changed. We've seen a couple apps that were previously paid switch to free, and at least one high profile app released as free with IAP.

We talked to a few users and a few developers to get their take on what this could mean for the future of the iPhone App Store.

This new app type, free but with In-App Purchasing has quickly been nicknamed free+. There are some really great things about it, and some really bad things about it. Let's break this down into what's good and what's bad for developers and consumers.

Good for Developers

There are lots of really good things to like about this decision for developers and they are almost uniformly happy with the decision. We asked Kyu Lee of Gamevil for his thoughts, "In-app purchasing for free apps is a huge step for Apple, and it really shows how much they are willing to adjust to the developers/publishers needs. Apple was first to adopt in-app purchases, and now first to adopt in-app purchases for free games. We strongly believe the next steps would be introducing microtransactions that are lower than 99c or the ability to use an intermediate currency within the game. We believe that Apple should provide as many options available to the developer/publisher as possible as long as it enhances the customer's experience, and we're very excited about what the tracks they've been following so far."

For some types of apps it makes the developers job a lot easier and potentially more profitable. Then there's the added bonus of making piracy much harder with apps that include in-app purchasing.

More Income Options

With in-app purchasing there are many more income possibilities for developers. Not only can they sell expansions to their app from within the app, but they can also sell subscriptions, upgrades, and virtual goods (think MMO apps). Doing in-app purchasing allows for the impulse buy. For example, the recently detailed Eliminate from ngmoco:) will feature a certain amount of time you can play per day while advancing your stats. If you are really getting into the game and you run out of time you are pretty likely to drop a buck and buy more time. Maybe just once, maybe a few times. Depends on how compelling the app is. Think of this as the candy racks at the grocery store checkout. You are standing there looking at it, a certain number of people will decide to buy.

In addition to more options, income opportunity is spread out for a much longer time. The way it is now most apps that make it to the top 100 do so quickly, then fall off quickly. This little spike represents a very high percentage of their sales. Sales after that are usually tied to an upgrade, press, or other such promotion. IAP allows for longer term income opportunities for developers as they can add content to the app and charge for it over a longer period of time. In addition, you can continue to get money from the dedicated users more than just once like most current apps.